Story and photography by Ben Matthews
The term, “Public Lands” has become a sort of a buzzword these days in certain industries around the US. If you step back and think about the term, it simply means land that can be used by and is for the public. That’s you, that’s me, that’s all of us. We have access to these lands thanks to certain branches of the federal government like the National Park Service, Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, etc. These lands can be used for all sorts of recreation and appreciation. Backpackers, fishermen and women, and hunters use these places as an integral part in the pursuit of their passions.
Cascade mountains via Hwy 2. – Shortly after moving to Seattle, I drove this highway for the first time and was instantly in love with the endless forest of green, the cascading rivers and the towering mountains above it all. I knew this was the place for me. – After a quick stop at the Espresso Chalet for a caffeine boost and to say hello to Bigfoot, we arrived at our trailhead and entered into the Mt. Baker – Snoqualmie National Forest.
Over 1.7 million acres of old growth forest, alpine meadows, and glaciated peaks lie within this forest. All for people like us to explore. We chose a specific trail that took us to an old Forest Service fire lookout, that was used in the past as a location for forest rangers to lookout for any signs of wildfires in the summer months. These days, rangers use satellites to help detect wildfires, but the remanence of what used to still remain. After a snack at the top and plenty of time to reflect on the beauty that surrounded us, we slowly made our way back to the car with our spirits lifted.
Although these lands were set aside to be public, there have been threats in certain regions recently over the interest of privatized companies who would like to exploit the land for its resources, which in turn, would destroy the recreation opportunities and the overall beauty of these special places.
With all of this in mind, I challenge you to make the lands that you know and love a priority. Fight to protect them for future generations. Do your part to keep them clean and encourage others to do the same. These lands are for all of us. Get out there and use ‘em!